In many organizations, the corporate real estate team is leading the effort to transform workplaces into more modern spaces that better support the workforce. However, to be successful your workplace transformation strategy must be about more than designing better spaces. Moving to a modern workplace also requires significant technology changes, as well as change management programs to help staff not only adjust but flourish in the new environment.
That’s why your workplace transformation strategy should not be developed by the CRE team alone. Outcomes for the company and for employees improve with interdepartmental collaboration between your CRE, Human Resources and Information Technology teams.
What HR and IT can contribute to the workplace transformation strategy
Moving to modern workplaces with flexible seating can be a monumental shift for employees. The fact is, you’re asking them give up ownership of their desks and significantly change their work habits. In the end (when you do it right), your people will be happier and more productive. But people do resist change, at least initially, so a carefully planned change management strategy is a must. That’s where your HR department is vitally important to your workplace transformation strategy.
HR can and should be your “eyes and ears on the ground” with your workforce. They can plan and execute a frequent, proactive communication plan to help employees understand what you’re giving back and how they will benefit from working in the new environment. HR will also be the driving force behind employee health and well-being initiatives in the modern workplace, as well as training managers for leading in a mobile working environment, and providing the necessary policies around flexible working.
One of the biggest investments you’ll need to make for your workplace transformation strategy is modernizing your technology infrastructure to support mobility and shared workspaces. You’ll need help and guidance from your IT group in implementing the best options for your workforce while also staying within budget.
Typically, CRE already understands that modernizing your workplace is a win for the company, the employees and ultimately, your team as well (even though it will take a significant effort to achieve). On the other hand, your HR and IT departments may not understand why they should contribute to your workplace transformation strategy. So how can you overcome resistance and get them on the team?
Interdepartmental collaboration: how to gain buy in and assemble a team
Here’s a three-pronged plan for convincing your HR and IT people to help with your workplace transformation strategy.
1. Share what’s in it for them
When you want to engage your HR and IT teams, it’s helpful to think about the benefits of the modern workplace from their point of view.
What’s one of the biggest issues faced by your HR department? Attracting and retaining talent has become a huge challenge for many companies, and one that workplace can impact for better or worse. Offering a cool, modern, high-tech workplace can make your organization an employer of choice for applicants.
What are the benefits of the workplace transformation strategy for your IT group? One is obvious: the opportunity to try out new technology. However, there are more benefits that can reduce their workload for supporting and maintaining technology. Such as: moving to an IT strategy to support shared workspace and mobility is also an opportunity to standardize equipment, streamline supported applications, and also consolidate the number of devices in the workplace. A great example of this is workplace printers: moving from desktop printers at every workstation to larger, shared multifunction printers reduces the load on IT as well as the service and support budget.
2. Include IT and HR goals in your workplace transformation strategy
Beyond simply explaining the overall benefits of modernizing the workplace, you can win over your IT and HR teams by helping them to meet their specific KPIs and objectives. Start by asking each group about some of the initiatives they are currently working on, and then incorporating those goals into your workplace transformation strategy. Here are a couple of examples of how to do that.
Let’s say your Human Resources group is working on a plan to improve workplace health and safety, with the goal of reducing absenteeism and lost worktime. Your job is to build that goal into your workplace transformation strategy. Giving workers more flexibility and the ability to move around has been shown to reduce lost worktime. That’s a reason why call center workers and others who are traditionally chained to a desk tend to have high absentee rates. Something as simple as giving them wireless headsets so they can walk over to the window while they talk, or walk to the printer to retrieve a document, can improve health and wellbeing, reduce lost time, and even improve productivity.
Your IT group may be working on improving building security. One problem with traditional badge-swipe technology for entering a building is tailgating: when a person swipes in and holds the door open for others. In an agile workspace, you need a better handle on who is using which space and better technology to track your people. That technology can also serve to improve security from an IT perspective. For example, using an app to enter as well as exit a space provides valuable information for space planning, and also makes your building more secure, since it eliminates tailgating (people have to swipe to get out, so they can’t skip swiping to get in. To gain the interest from your IT group, include plans that meet their objectives in your workplace transformation strategy.
3. Address their concerns about workplace transformation
Your IT and HR groups are going to have questions and concerns about your plans to implement a modern workplace. Make sure you address these in your messaging, and let both groups know need them involved so you can develop a workplace transformation strategy that works for everyone.
Common HR concerns:
- What will be the impact of this new environment on our people? HR needs to understand how employees will benefit from the modern workplace and how they can communicate that information to the workforce.
- How can we support the behavioral changes we need from workers in a shared workspace? Achieving the desired outcome from your workplace transformation strategy requires not only workplace changes, but support programs, education and policy changes.
- How can we help leaders to manage in a mobile work environment? Help HR to understand that one of the most important goals of workplace transformation is creating a culture of collaboration and innovation. That requires managers to develop new leadership skills, and training is needed to help them get there.
Common concerns you’ll hear from IT:
- How does the workplace transformation strategy impact the current and long-term IT strategy? You’ll need to work with IT to come up with innovative technology solutions that support new ways of working while also meeting IT goals for security and infrastructure.
- How do we manage the costs for technology implementation IT may not have the budget to implement all the intelligent workplace technology you want at once. Work with them on the financial impact and to develop a workplace transformation strategy that aligns the priorities over time. For example, instead of going with mobile phones, initially you may be able to use desktop phones where mobile workers can login at a flexible workstation to receive calls.
- How will flexible working impact service level agreements? In a traditional setting with low occupancy, a 4-day response time for repairs may be fine because there are always free workstations. However, in an agile setting with higher utilization, response times must be stepped up. However, you can work with IT to come up with other strategies for reducing their workload, such as providing self-service access to frequently requested items like keyboards, and standardizing the equipment and software employees use.
Working together improves the outcome of your workplace transformation strategy
When HR, IT and CRE all have a hand in planning and executing your workplace transformation strategy, the outcomes improve for everyone:
- You’ve got a team anticipating problems from varying perspectives: technology, workplace and workforce.
- You gain insights from everyone’s knowledge and experience, so you can proactively plan interventions that minimize concerns and prevent problems from derailing your project.
- With the right workplace design, technology, programs and policies in place, your employees get tremendous improvements in their workplace experience. They can accomplish more, feel better and actually enjoy the environment and their workday.
- The big gain for the company (in addition to the huge cost savings from optimizing wasted space) is revenue growth from the increased productivity and innovation that result from the collaborative workplace culture.
That brings us to one final point, which will not be lost on top leaders: the interdepartmental collaboration of your HR, IT and CRE teams on this project is actually modeling the collaborative culture you’re looking to develop within your company.